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Fraud Hotline at

25fraudhotline  9/25/09 donaldson

The federal government is looking for the public’s help in monitoring the use of the economic stimulus money that is being distributed to help improve the national and local economic conditions.

The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board  on Monday will begin a national reporting system – looking for fraudulent use of the money.    Cheryl Avidson (avid-son) with the Board says the Recovery-dot-org website will soon have a simple method for finding out what local projects are going on –who received money … and what it’s supposed to be used for.   She says the board must watch out for the possibility of misuse.   And that begins with people being able to help them.

#25fraudhotline1               :45           People who are on the scene, on the ground, have a great opportunity to see if something just doesn’t make sense, if they think this project looks a little fishy, for example.  We would like to believe that all this money would go out and there would be no problem,  but that’s not realistic.  And if your going to do an effective job of trying to stop fraud and waste and abuse, you need as many eyes and ears as possible watching out for these projects – and we think that by giving people the capacity and the ability to go through their local neighborhoods and drill down into this information, that that will substantially increase our ability to increase our ability to detect malfeasance, fraud and abuse going on out around the country.

Avidson says the twelve inspectors already working for the board have already been responding to reports of misuse – as have the inspectors general of twenty eight federal agencies making grants for stimulus projects.

Grant recipients are required to report on their progress beginning October first.  But she says the federal government is prepared to assist people who are unfamiliar with filing reports.  Additionally,  local sources will be available to help with those reports – for example the Foraker (FORE-uh-kerr) Group is set to work — for a fee — with non-profit organizations on their reporting requirements.

To report allegations of misuse of the federal money,  the public can use the toll-free hotline at 877-FWA-DESK – as of Monday morning – or people can use a link from the Recovery-dot-gov website.


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Possible Routes for the Bullet

15bullet       9/15/09 donaldson

The Parnell Administration gave legislators today (Tuesday) a comprehensive comparison of possible routes to get a long-lasting supply of natural gas to Anchorage, Fairbanks and points in between.  The forty-three pages of maps,  photos and cost charts was part of a complete analysis due next spring that will fuel debate and decisions on in-state use of the state’s North Slope reserves.   Dave Donaldson reports.

Harry Noah,  the administration’s in-state gas coordinator,  was appointed earlier this year to sort out the ideas and arguments coming from the various agencies and stakeholders in an in-state natural gas project to pipe natural gas to the Railbelt.  He’s put together a management and engineering team and kept legislators up-to-date on their findings.  The in-state project is only a back-up to be used if what’s called The Big Project –the gasline through Canada to North American markets — falls apart.

The latest study – sorting out the possible routes and alternatives that a gas line could take – is only a

small part of the information that policy-makers will have to consider if an affirmative step is taken.   He said the bottom line is getting a price that consumers will pay and shippers will sell for.  He said it’s a dance.

#15bullet1                           :25           So it comes down to the cost of the conveyance of this pipeline.  And there’s only two ways to drive that cost down.  Either you increase the volume or the state participates in it.  And those will all be your decisions.  We’re basically the mechanics trying to lay out a project and to see if we can tee up a project that’s economically viable and can work.  My sense is that we can.

The general driving force of the development – which would be turned over to a private owner/operator – is to have gas flowing in Anchorage and Fairbanks by 2015.   To get there the state has to start getting permits now – starting with the Army Corps of Engineers next month.  Noah’s team has to finish its feasibility study in June. The owner would be need to be chosen in early 2011.

Anchorage Democrat Les Gara said the Canadian line would be cheaper, but there’s a risk the state might not get it. He asked when the decision is due to proceed with the plan that Noah’s putting together.

#15bullet2                           :13           This whole thing is really a chicken and egg, right?  If we knew we had the big pipeline going we wouldn’t be doing this.  If we knew if we would be getting cheaper Cook Inlet gas we wouldn’t be doing this.  It’s obviously frustrating and complex.

Noah agrees.  There are too many factors at play that are not under the state’s control.  He says the best thing that lawmakers and the administration can do is put A project on a schedule.

#15bullet3                           :28           And every three months look over and say Are we drilling in Cook Inlet, is somebody actually finding some gas. Or is The Big Line, is anything changed or are we really on a schedule.  And be prepared to slow down.  But if the only thing you can do is this, put it on a schedule and constantly analyze what’s happening around you.  Cause everything else is out of your control.

The study of the in-state route favors using the Parks Highway as a reference rather than the Richardson Highway.  It’s ninety two miles shorter, nearly a half-Billion dollars less expensive.  And, with the military and utilities in the area, it would use more of the gas along the way.  Noah points out, though, that he will not make a decision, legislators and the governor will make the choice based on all the other studies that will come out between now and June.


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Rural SubCabinet on the Road

11ruraltrip   9/11/09 donaldson

The Rural Action Sub-cabinet will hold the first of a series of hearings in Western Alaska next week.   Attorney General Daniel Sullivan,  Commerce Commissioner Emil Notti, and Transportation Commissioner  Leo Von Scheben (SHAY-binn)  will be available to meet with the public in Unalakleet Monday afternoon.   Sullivan will continue to Kotzebue for a public meeting on Wednesday.   Bill McAllister is Sullivan’s spokesman.

#11ruraltrip1                       :22           Basically, it’s to listen.  To find out what rural residents have to say about the challenges they face and to hear what solutions they might propose.  This is the first of what will be a couple or a few trips to rural Alaska in preparation of some recommendations for the governor’s consideration hopefully by December.

McAllister says the administration is serious about addressing the problems they know exist in rural Alaska and they want input from those who live there.  He says this and future trips are part of the fact-gathering the subcabinet is doing, along with accepting suggestions from the public at the e-mail address established at  attorney-dot-general-at-alaska-dot-gov.

The Unalakleet meeting with the public will be from two to four Monday afternoon in the Community Hall.  The Kotzebue public meeting will be held from ten to noon at the Northwest Arctic Borough Assembly Chambers.


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Yukon Salmon Season Opening

09yukonfish    9/9/9 donaldson

Fishermen in Western Alaska,  suffering by bad runs and limited availability to King and Chum salmon this year,  have finally gotten a chance to make some money for their winter needs.  But it isn’t much.

John Hilsinger, the director of commercial fisheries for the Department of Fish and Game,  says during a six-hour Coho opening in the Yukon delta on Sunday,  forty eight boats caught  only four hundred Coho and a hundred Fall Chum.  He says the short opening was to determine what the harvest of both species would be.

#09yukonfish1                   :26           We are likely somewhat below the low end of the escapement goal range on fall chums,  and so we’ve timed these openings after the vast majority of fall chums have gone through the District Y-1 where the opening was.  And so we wanted to be sure still though that we did not have a real large fall chum catch.

He says the harvest results were about what biologists expected for that short an opening.   An opening yesterday (Tuesday) was much better, though, when thirty boats took part in a nine-hour opening.  Hilsinger says they brought in twelve hundred seventy three coho and six hundred eighty chum.   He says the coho numbers were at the high end of predictions, but the chum were much higher than anticipated.

#09yukonfish2                   :15           We are still concerned about the fall chum escapements and so we were trying to get this in at a time when most of the fall chum run was past and we would have relatively low fall chum catches.

He says there are no openings today and tomorrow (Thursday), but other openings will likely take place – possibly as soon as Friday.  They will be determined on a day to day basis.

The current shortages are the result of an unexplained weak return of chum.  He says the total return this year has been about three hundred thousand fish,  but the system needs at least that just for spawning.  Subsistence harvests have taken the return below the minimum.  He expects the Coho run will be average –or above average —  lasting the rest of the month.   Whether fishermen will take advantage of the later openings will depend on the availability of the fish processor, the cost of boat operations – and catch rates of later openings.


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Halcro Announces for Congress

09halcro   9/9/9    donaldson

Anchorage businessman and columnist Andrew Halcro is making an announcement now (this morning at 7a.m.) that he will run against Congressman Don Young in next year’s Republican Primary election.

Halcro was in the state House of Representatives between 1999 and 2003 and run as an independent candidate for governor against Sarah Palin and Democrat Tony Knowles in 2006.

He says his campaign is based on one issue – Don Young’s lack of seniority in the U-S House after thirty six years in office.  He says Alaska has an eighteen-term Freshman in the House right now.

# 09halcro1                         :27           This really is about seniority.  And it’s ironic because this is the argument that certainly our Congressional Delegation has used for the last few decades – that seniority matters.  As a matter of fact that was one of Congressman Young’s key campaign pitches last year when he ran against former minority leader Ethan Berkowitz was that Seniority matters.  And I absolutely agree that seniority matters.  But after that election,  he was stripped of  his seniority and again seniority does matter.

He says he agrees with Young on such things as state sovereignty and second amendment rights,  and he believes in what Young has done during his time in office.  However, he wants to see much more control of federal spending, and he sees other issues – such as health care and climate change – as questions to be answered by a Republican for the next generation.

#09halcro2                          :28           I think Don Young has done some good work for the state in the last thirty six years.  But it is truly time given the fact that the country is in the position its in now – and the fact that Alaska has no more seniority and has one representative to the United State House of Representatives it’s critical that we turn over this election cycle so we can gain seniority just like Don Young did when he was elected in 1973.

Halcro says he plans to build on his statewide business career,  his legislative experience, his independent run for governor and his work blogging and in talk radio to get his view of Alaska across to people.

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Alaska House on the Alaska Economy

09AlaskaHouse    9/9/9   donaldson

The East Coast will get a new look at Alaska’s Economy and future in Energy markets later this month when the Alaska House,  a New York City non-profit, holds one of its monthly presentations on state issues.   The year-old Alaska House has hosted previous events on the state’s tourism, arts, and fishing industry.  Executive Director Tracey Foster says the upcoming presentation will likely be attended by the New York City Media as well as business leaders interested in energy and economics.

#09AlaskaHouse1             :23           We’ve invited a panel of experts or leaders from different sectors to talk a little about what’s next for Alaska.  We’ve  had a changed in administration that’s happened and obviously we’re still dealing with a recession. There is an appetite here in New York for some new news, and that’s what this panel is designed to do.

Leading the discussion will be David Rubenstein,  co-founder and managing director of the Carlyle Group – one of the largest investment firms in the world.   Also taking part will be University of Alaska-Anchorage chancellor Fran Ulmer, state Senate President Gary Stevens,  and Margie Brown,  C-E-O or Cook Inlet Regional.

Foster says part of the panel’s focus will be on Alaska’s role as an energy provider for the nation,  but it will also take time to look at alternative and renewable energy development.

#09AlaskaHouse2             :17           I think that there is a lot of potential for Alaska to lead on that front.  And I do think the rest of the country is looking to see if that will happen.  So, I certainly hope the panelists will touch on that.  I know that the q and a and the audience will be interested in hearing about that.

The panel discussion will take place September 24th at 2:30 Alaska time – and they are working on having an audio or videoconference feed will be available live here.  For more details, go to the website


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Berkowitz Announces for Governor

08berko    9/08/09       donaldson

Add another name to the choices for governor in the 2010 election.

#08berko1                           :04           I have filed my letter of intent with APOC and I’m running for governor

That’s Ethan Berkowitz,  the former leader of the Democrats in the state House of Representatives and last year’s nominee for Congress.  He  says he’s joined the campaign because he believes Alaska needs leaders who will make changes in the state.

# 08berko2                          :14           Voters are in a time of uncertainty.   We have the resources to solves the problems,  to make certainty.  And they’re going to make decisions based on someone they can identify with and someone they think shares their values

He says his campaign will show that he has the ability to bring Alaskans together – in a non-partisan way — to develop solutions to the state’s problems.  He says he believes people will choose their next governor based on a shared vision of the future.

.#08berko3                          :20           This is part of what hasn’t happened.  The state hasn’t been part of people’s solutions.  It’s gotten in the way.  And the state hasn’t solved problems like the high cost of energy and it hasn’t solved problems like deteriorating infrastructure.  And the state has a role to play in making sure those problems get solved.  There’s been a leadership vacuum for too long.

Berkowitz says he has already been traveling across the state.  His next trip is to Kotzebue and the Northwest Arctic.

He already has three opponents in the Democratic Primary election:   Former Commissioner of Administration Bob Poe,  state senator Hollis French and Homer’s Rob Rosenfeld, a director of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council.

The election is August 24th.


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Fairbanks Child Dies of Swine Flu

06fludeath   9/6/09    donaldson

A Fairbanks elementary student died of the H1N1 flu over the weekend.  His is the second death attributed to the Swine Flu in Alaska.

The ten-year-old attended school Thursday morning but was released to his parents during the day.  He was hospitalized in Fairbanks just after midnight and later evacuated to Anchorage’s Providence Hospital where he died Friday night.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Beth Funk told reporters yesterday (Sunday) that the child was previously healthy before showing the symptoms.  She said what followed in the next day and a half was a very rapid and unusual deterioration.

#06fludeath1                      :23           We are not aware of any other situation in Alaska that has been this severe and this rapid. However, we’ve been in touch with the Centers for Disease Control – the influenza branch – and they’ve informed us that this seems a very rapid course,  but they are aware of other situations similar to this around the country.

She says a second elementary school-age child, also from Fairbanks, was sent to Providence Friday with flu symptoms,  but is now doing well. There was no known connection between the two.   Additionally, an eleven-month old infant had the H1N1 flu in July and was readmitted to the hospital sometime later where he died.  Funk says there is not a direct connection between that death and the flu but tests are continuing.

A report by the Division of Public Health last week shows the state has confirmed four hundred sixty cases of the flu in Alaska with eighteen people being hospitalized – which Dr. Funk says is very small. The outbreak is also wideapread — meaning it is being found in all areas of the state.

She says a comparison with the annual seasonal influenza is that this strain is starting much earlier in the year.

# 06fludeath2                     :16           To have this circulating in Alaska, all regions, through the summer – it’s unique.  However the severity with illness is probably on par with regular seasonal flu.

The department expects about thirty five thousand doses of vaccine to protect against the H1N1 flu to arrive in the first half of October.   Priorities for that will be given for those twenty four and younger and to pregnant women.


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McAllister Cleared of Ethics Charge

04mcallister      9/04/09       donaldson

Former-Governor Sarah Palin’s Communications Director Bill McAllister has been cleared of charges that he used his office and position to help Palin’s political activities.

An investigation into the complaint by Anchorage’s Andree McLeod found the allegations  – quote –  “if true and the evidence reviewed to date do not demonstrate conduct that violate the Ethics Act.”

McAllister says he always looked at his job performance as ethical and within the scope of his job description.

#04mcallister1                   :28           There was no predisposition on my part to look for ways to campaign for the governor.  I was trying to facilitate her job as governor – including setting up interviews for her at the Republican National Convention prior to the time she was picked by Senator McCain when she would have had ample opportunity to the national media about issues such as ANWR. And so I had lined up interviews with Newsweek, USAToday and so on.

During and after the national campaign,  McAllister says he focused on Alaska issues and on speaking for Palin in defense of her job performance.


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Parnell: Open OCS

03OCS   9/3/09  donaldson

Governor Parnell is beginning what he calls a full-court press to support a five-year oil and gas leasing program on Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf – or O-C-S.  The decision to proceed with the program will come from the U-S Interior Department, which is accepting public comments until the twenty first of this month.

Parnell submitted a five-page letter today (Thursday) supporting it.   He says oil and gas development can be done responsibly and safely – and with respect for the culture of Alaskans.  With that in place,  he says there is a good economic reason for  development – even if the federal government gets the direct revenue from any development.

# 03OCS1                             :18           If we have more oil going into TAPS, that lowers the tariff for TAPS, which means that more fields in Alaska get explored that can then access that pipeline.  What it means is more jobs more revenue for Alaskans, and that’s what I’m focused on.

He also says the O-C-S has an estimated hundred thirty Trillion Cubic feet of gas offshore from the North Slope, which will have a huge effect on the life of a gas line to Canada and the lower-forty eight.  He says development of the Outer Continental Shelf offers the greatest opportunity for the state’s future.

# 03OCS2                             :18           We’ve got so much in terms of resources up there,  We have so much opportunity for jobs and revenue up there.  It hasn’t really gotten the spotlight for what is needed from  the administration and from the public.  I’ve really wanted to just spike it.

The September twenty first deadline is for public comment – from both sides of the decision surrounding O-C-S development.   The environmental  group Oceana has a major interest in the Outer Continental shelf — and its comment to the Secretary of the Interior is on its way.    Pacific Senior Counsel Mike Levine (luh-VYNE) says the federal government has the opportunity to put in place precautionary science-based management for the oceans. And he says “science” includes local and traditional knowledge from people who will be effected by the decisions on development.

#03OCS3                              :20           We want to make sure that science is driving the decisions that are made with regard to our public resources and our oceans. It’s widely recognized that there’s not a lot known about he Arctic and that we need a complete scientific assessment to determine if these activities should happen and if so, when where and how.

He favors the approach the federal government already has in place with its Arctic Fishery Management Plan which received support from scientists and industry and requires scientific involvement before fishing occurs.  However, he is concerned that the government is ignoring that plan in considering whether to allow oil and gas development without such science-based management.


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